This is my first experience of Takenoko and I am happy to announce – probably not my last! One does not often associate game playing with serious academic study (or rat dissection for that matter) however, as part of our subject for this session, I have been asked to ‘dissect’ and comment on a board game, focusing on one particular aspect. Having carefully selected Takenoko from our lecturer’s beloved game collection, myself and three other students sat down to learn and play. My board games experience (I am ashamed to say) is extremely scant thus hindering my ability to traverse the learning curve tightrope which in the case of Takenoko is quite difficult. It is a competitive game designed by Antoine Bauza and published by Asmodee, and aside from its initial complexity, is beautifully crafted.
Bauza’s love for everything Japanese which began in his boyhood with Manga, flows through Takenoko’s narrative and its beautifully crafted components. The Japanese thematic is represented throughout the game, beginning with a comic strip which tells the story of the Chinese emperor giving the giant panda as a gift to the Japanese emperor. A theme, according to Boardgames.com,“refers to the subject matter the game is built around” which in Takenoko’s case is an animal, a giant panda, and a gardener whose task is to keep the giant panda fed. Takenoko is a light Euro game which is fun and family orientated with its animal and gardening themes being played out with the players being able to tend to the Panda by feeding it (each player has a Panda stomach on their board mat) and the bamboo by growing it. Playing the game is a delight as the random pattern of visually appealing tiles takes shape, the bamboo ‘grows’ and the panda moves around the board simultaneously eating and hiding.
Having watched Antoine Bauza interviewed, one is left with no doubt that he just wants players, above all, to enjoy the games he’s creates. Dave Adams (The Core Mechanic) tells us, for Bauza, game making is an intuitive process where “he genuinely feels like he’s making games that he loves or he would love to play – so there is a sense of going with your gut with Antoine”. He goes on to say that Antoine always starts with a theme which he wants to produce and build and create over time, so all his games are strongly thematic. For me, the game was certainly a winner and one that I would like to play again in the not too distant future.